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Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Crank nosebands and Rollkur. Two words that will send dressage aficionados at each others throats in record time. However, no matter how you look at it this IS NOT GOOD FOR THE HORSE! Look at this fellow, see the nice pad under the buckle of his noseband? That should not be necessary. A properly adjusted cavesson should still be loose enough for the horse to relax his jaw. This fellow cannot, its a wonder he can even FEEL his nose with that thing cranked that tight. The whole point in the crank is to render the horse unable to resist the extreme pull on the reins, flexing his neck into this unnatural position. Now, I have NO ISSUE with a full double bridle, heck I use one myself on my old mare, but this is just not acceptable. They have these horses so hyperflexed their noses are nearly on their chests. Oh, and check out the angle of the shanks on the curb of the second one, that's not right. Also notice his eye, you can see the conjunctiva he is so strained. This causes a myriad of issues, both for the horse and for the sport itself. There is a very interesting site called Sustainable Dressage, the author very concisely explains and illustrates the effects of various pieces of tack, how they work, and how Rollkur affects the horse's body.


  1. Torture your horse so you can look "cool" has taken another horrific turn with Rolkur. This is so un-natural. I don't find it beautiful if a horse won't or can't do it naturally. This goes for all the crap that goes on in every discipline from the peanut rollers in AQHA to the Big Lick TWH. Disgusting and disturbing. The worst thing is...these people will tell you that they "love" their hroses.

  2. Oh wow you have opened quite a can of worms today. I am interested to read todays comments.

    I always wondered why a horse being behind the bit was accepted. I would much rather have a horse a over the bit then behind.

  3. I just watched "If Horses Could Speak," the video based on the book "Tug of War." It's a great video showing exactly how rollkur ruins horses. I recommend it.

  4. When I competed in dressage back in the 1980's, overflexion like this was severely penalized at all levels. Overflexion was exactly that - a horse overly flexed, behind the vertical and not properly on the bit or responding to the aids through the body. In training, a horse might be overflexed for a moment due to inexperience or to exaggerate a cue and then released until it learned but certainly not cranked into this frame and ridden longer than a stride or two.

    I feel for the sport now that time is the element of training that seems to be ruled out. Riders need to develop the seat and leg to urge the horse's energy into the bridle, not hang on a horses' face with it's mouth cranked shut while it carries them around. I'll bet in most cases where you see pictures like this, it's a "rider" who wants to get in the show ring and win the ribbons and they buy the talented horse and the tack but don't have the skills or patience to learn to ride it in the correct fashion.

    Take some time and browse Youtube for some of Reiner Klimke's competition videos. He is my high standard for what dressage should be - harmony, quietness, softness, without gadgets and extreme training methods.

  5. i ride dressage in a double bridle and have allways been taught that if a vertical line were dropped down in front of the horses nose, the nose should not be behind that line. the horse in the second picture looks really uncomfortable.....i sure hope my trainer doesnt see it!!

  6. George Morris pointed out in the June Practical Horseman that we've gotten to this overflexion in ALL disciplines when we what really need is softness. I tend to agree.

    I remember in the 80s, people were all about being ON THE BIT. Behind the bit was ridiculed, above the bit was considered undertrained....

    In fact, to the uneducated eye, "ON the bit" just looked like... a really nice ride. None of this hyper archy stuff.....

    "A horse 'held in shape' by his rider is only posturing in a seemingly correct form, usually for the benefit of inexperienced observers."

    - Charles de Kunffy

    I can't BELIEVE that dressage has fallen so low. You used to be able to count on dressage as the gold standard of wonderful and careful horsemanship.

  7. There is still very much hope with the true classical dressage trainers. Dr. Thomas Ritter is one.

    Now I have a crank noseband bridle - it looks good on my mare, BUT it is never so tight that she can't take cookies and I've never had her behind the bit. She used to have a slight tendency to curl up but we got over that quickly when I bought her.

  8. In the second picture, you can see that the neck is flexed at the 3rd vertebra; thay call that "broken." The natural place for the top of the crest is the 2nd vertebra.

    I've been reading Tug of War. Excellent book. I may join Horseflix and rent the video...


  9. I agree with everyone on the rollkur, it is wrong and not proper.
    However, I disagree with the crank noseband. Like with any/every sport equipment is used wrong as it is here. The orginal use of the crank was not to "crank" it shut, but to ditribute pressure evenly. Unforunatly a bunch of idiots discovered they can make the noseband tighter and it is what it is today... I use a crank on my horse both dressage and hunterseat (two diffent bridles and bits)and it is adjusted properly (two fingers)and he can open and flex his mouth and jaw.

  10. I agree about the use of rollkur, but disagree about the pictures. Because a picture is a snapshot in time. Actually, in the first shot, the horse's eye is soft and it looks like there is a nice soft contact on the reins. He may have just been asked to overflex for a moment in preparation for a stretch, or something else. Also, that noseband does not look cranked down, merely against his face. He can clearly open his mouth.

    The second horse is definitely uncomfortable, but he could have just spooked or shied and the rider's hand got left behind. There is no way to tell what is happening in that picture unless you were there.

    A crank noseband is not a torture device either -- you don't HAVE to crank it tight and actually, they are quite nice for keeping a soft surface against the horse's chin instead of a buckle. Like every other piece of tack (can we say flash anyone?) it is just abused by many.

  11. While I am agains Rolkur training, I must say that a crank noseband is NOT a toture device in any terms. In fact, it can be kinder because it is designed to distribute pressure across the jaw and nose instead of having pressure points like normal snaffle cavessons can create. I use a crank on my four year old thoroughbred, and in no way is it cruel nor is he unhappy. You adjust it to be as tight as a normal cavesson.

  12. I wish it wasn't called a "crank."

    That gives people very bad ideas.....

  13. Training or Torture? T O R T U R E.

    Whatever happened to Classical Dressage?

    This style of riding *shudder* dismisses the horse's physiology and psychology entirely. Brutally shameful. I can't imagine a valid reason why this is permitted. It violates every principle in the art of equitation - a Harmonious Relationship between horse and rider - a wonder to behold.

    Have these 'riders' not studied any classical horsemanship at all? The photos are evidence that ignorance is NOT bliss, at least not for the horse.

    Amen to Solitairemare and others commenting about the 'overflexion'. Is this not penalized like it used to be? Ribbons for heads past the vertical?!? Say it isn't so. :(

  14. While I agree these pictures are just one frames' worth of a 'snapshot in time', Rolkur does exist and some even herald this as the standard. If you are riding at the level of using a double bridle, your aids should be able to handle a 'spook' without cranking their head to their chest. You cannot see the contact on the first horse w/out seeing the hand of the rider. I don't believe you should have to overflex to get a good stretch. Just another reason, tons of dressage horses just do not have a good free walk. True, you cannot tell what is happening unless you are there but these pictures do depict what the OP was trying to point out. Rolkur is torture.
    And yes, I believe if the crank nosebands were named something more appropriate it would not conjure up visions of pain in our heads. I mean no ill towards eventer79's comments. You can argue that any picture doesn't depict what a post is talking about but that is missing the point of the post.

  15. Is this common in the US? This would be marked down severely in the UK and is a sign of coersive and heavy-handed training. It does not give the impression of controlled power and impulsion which is what dressage should be about. But I agree with several comments about the Crank noseband, it can be abused just like any other piece of horse equipment.

  16. No a Dutch rider Sjef Janssen came up rollkur.
    Anky has been a strong supporter of rollkur. Which when people see her winning, they of course want to immulate her style.

  17. Rollkur makes me sick.

    Heck, I get mad when I look at dressage horses online...I was looking at a beautiful Lusitano the other day, exactly my type of horse...if it hadn't been ridden in draw reins until its head was *fixed* in the 'frame'...its hind end, meanwhile, was trailing behind it, it was on the forehand...

    ...and they wanted 48,000 for it.

    The frame starts at the BACK of the horse, people. The BACK.

  18. I agree with you flying horse, about double bridles. But bad moments do happen. Not saying it is necessarily one, it may indeed be the way this person thinks is acceptable to ride. I just have to play devil's advocate...

  19. I foresee the day (or maybe it's already crept up on us) where dressage is divided into "Classical/Baroque" and "Sport (for lack of a better term)" with separate shows, severe breed stereotypes, and worst of all, different judging standards.

    And both camps will be all too aware of each other....


  20. My 2 cents worth on the "crank" nosebands?

    I own one that worked very well on my TB mare in the hunter/hunt seat equitation show ring some 15-20 years ago. However, when I bought it back then, it was listed in the catalog as a "continuous back" noseband and that it was to equalize pressure on the nose and prevent pinching. My, how that definition seems to have changed.

  21. I am disgusted by all dressage riders that promote or use these practices... I used to idolize Dressage, but no more. It used to be a sport where horse-rider were a team, a well oiled machine and no one was yanking at the horses mouth and nothing was used against the horse. I have no comments for those who try to defend it. If you intentionnaly misuse tack or fit it improperly, you are entirely responsible.

  22. Well, I am sure that there are plenty of good horsemen still out there competing and scoring well....

    So when did it start to go wrong? Did it get too popular? Too many fancy horses owned & ridden by lazy rich people who don't know or care as much about "correct" as they do about "winwinwindammittrainerIwantmymoney'sworth" ?

  23. Are crank nosebands really that bad? I've been using one on my horse for 2 years now, purely because it came with the bridle, but have never even thought of tightening it beyond normal noseband tightness. I quite like it because it means it doesn't pinch the back of him jaw like some normal ones do. He goes in it exactly the same as he did in a normal one, this looks like a classic case of 'the harshness of the equipment depends entirely on the hands that hold it'

  24. I have to agree about Rolkur- Honestly, I have no clue why judges accept it. It's unnatural, and hardly anything like the Classical Dressage standard. Not to mention cruel. If I were the authority for approving Dressage judges, I'd start telling them that horses like that are to be severely penalized, and have it viewed as a form of cruelty in the warm-up ring, so that, if practiced, the person would be forbidden from showing at that particular show in the least, perhaps from showing at all for a time- Nothing will stop the practice of Rolkur like not winning because of it.

    As for cranks- I'm thrilled to see so many people defending them! I remember when "Shame in the Horse Show Ring" blog slammed cranks, and not a one came forward to say that they are not actually the devil tack-ilized. I mean, look at the crank in principle. It's an extremely padded noseband that you "crank" to tighten. What I've heard is that its build results in the pressure being more evenly distributed- I've also read it was designed so, if tight enough, you can use it to keep a horse from opening or crossing his mouth to evade the bit. Now, if you are worried about a flash restricting his air flow, that's good- But the whole flash-restricts-air-flow thing seems to be more of an Eventing/Jumper fear, rather than a Dressage, and all the people I know who use cranks (Including a Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer) use them with a flash attachment if they want them to close the horse's mouth.
    Obviously, you can get them too tight, and then yes, they are cruel. But you can get a girth too tight, or the cheekpieces too short- But no one condemns Cheekpieces or Girths. Anything can be cruel in the hands of a cruel person, and Cranks are no exception. But it is perfectly possible to use them without any ill effects on the horse, and many horses perfer them to a regular caveson- I think you will find that most of the people slamming them have never used them themselves.

  25. whoaa, nothing much from me. I have read about rollkur .. alot. As my english is not too good im not going to tell what i think and so (i´m agenst rollkur!).

    BUT, those of u who has laptops. take and turn it.. with the first picture you turn it to the side to get horses head to normal position (normal as a horse is balanced while running free) but the other picture. you turn it, and turn it agone.... scary

  26. In my neck of the woods, riders (and judges!!) have been told to go home from shows because of this garbage. Rolkur is definatly not the norm, but the exception. Most dressage riders are patient and DO love their horses, it's the impatient ones that we have this issue with. They also are misinformed, because in true dressage there is NO frame whatsoever. The horse looks like they aren't moving their heads but in reality the rider is making thousands of tiny adjustments to the horses head that John Lyons calls "the give" it's in his book Lyons on Horses. Dressage riders just use a scaled down version of it to give the illusion that they aren't doing anything.

  27. Looking at this once again, I so hope people get DQ'ed for riding like this. Poor ponies. :(